Freddie Mac - Part 2

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Analysts Question a Threat by Fannie

Analysts Question a Threat by Fannie

By DAVID STREITFELD Published: June 24, 2010

Fannie Mae’s decision to begin punishing people who walk away from their unpaid mortgages could prove difficult to sell to the public and might be impossible to execute, housing and lending experts said Thursday.

The big mortgage financing company, which owns or guarantees millions of mortgages, announced on Wednesday that it would sue homeowners who have the capacity to pay but default anyway. It also said it would prevent these strategic defaulters from getting a new Fannie Mae-backed loan for seven years, which could potentially shut millions of buyers out of the market.

But it was unclear, the experts said, why Fannie Mae was threatening delinquent owners and what it hoped to achieve. The new direction seems to run counter to the Obama administration’s efforts to reinvigorate the housing market. And there were basic questions about how Fannie would be able to distinguish between those homeowners who defaulted intentionally and the unfortunate ones who had no choice.

“How are they going to do this, and for what result?” asked Grant Stern, president of the Morningside Mortgage Corporation on Bay Harbor Islands, Fla. “So they can find the people who have a little money left after their house crashed and take it away from them?”

A Fannie Mae spokeswoman said that the goal of the new punitive policies was to force defaulting homeowners to work with their servicers to surrender their houses through either a lender-approved short sale or by formally giving up the deed.

“We really want to encourage borrowers to pursue alternatives to foreclosure,” said the spokeswoman, Janis Smith.

Fannie’s newly aggressive stance comes as the debate is heating up over how much, if at all, borrowers should be held liable for their foreclosures.

Republicans recently added a measure to a Federal Housing Administration financing bill in the House of Representatives that would forbid strategic defaulters from getting an F.H.A.-insured loan.

The California Legislature is debating a proposed law that goes in the other direction, shielding many more delinquent borrowers from debt collectors.

Fannie and its sister company, Freddie Mac, control 30 million mortgages, providing liquidity to the housing market. They have been under government conservatorship since September 2008; the ultimate cost of the rescue to taxpayers might hit $400 billion.

Chris Dickerson of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie, said, “We support Fannie Mae taking a policy position that discourages borrowers who can afford to pay their mortgage from walking away.”

Fannie Mae will announce the details of its new program next month, when the servicers who collect mortgage payments on Fannie’s loans will get explicit instructions on how to make recommendations for lawsuits.

But for some in the mortgage business, the new direction seemed little more than a cruel joke.

“Fannie wants to lock people up in a jail of negative net worth for much of the rest of their lives,” said Lou Barnes, a Colorado mortgage banker. “They’re bringing back the debtor’s prison.”

The plan poses some political problems as well as practical ones. Fannie Mae might be a ward of the government but its new policy is at distinct odds with the Obama administration, which has been trying to restart the fragile housing market by lowering interest rates, offering tax credits and insuring millions of new loans.

A Treasury Department spokesman said Fannie Mae’s plan did not represent official Obama administration policy. A spokesman for Freddie Mac said it was closely following Fannie’s moves but had not yet adopted them.

Strategic defaults have been a rising concern for years. Lenders first noticed people purposefully ditching their houses early in the financial crisis. In late 2007, Kenneth D. Lewis, then chief executive of Bank of America, said people were remaining current on their credit cards but defaulting on their home loans, a phenomenon that he said “astonished” him.

The lenders are less surprised now, but perhaps more worried. Bank of America said recently that it was putting owners in danger of foreclosure into payment plans that were supposed to be affordable — but that a third of the borrowers were failing to pay anyway.

“You could say the customer is choosing not to make those payments,” said Jack Schakett, credit loss mitigation executive for Bank of America Home Loans.

Borrowers who stop paying the mortgage can get a year of free rent, and sometimes two. “There is a huge incentive for customers to walk away,” Mr. Schakett said in a recent media briefing.

Fannie is not saying how many of its borrowers are strategically defaulting. The firm’s delinquency rate, traditionally about 0.5 percent of its portfolio, began sharply ascending in mid-2007. At the beginning of this year, it leveled off at 5.5 percent.

About a quarter of homeowners with mortgages, or about 11 million households, owe more than their home is worth, and are potentially vulnerable to a strategic default. A flat or rising real estate market could encourage many of them to hold on; a declining market would suggest it was time to go.

Fannie was established as a federal agency in 1938 but was chartered by Congress as a private company in 1968. For years it prospered by virtue of its special status as a government-sponsored entity charged with increasing the nation’s homeownership rate, enriching its shareholders and executives in the process.

During the housing boom Fannie overreached and bought many loans of buyers who were ill-equipped to pay them. Its fate is uncertain; it is not even clear it will be around in seven years to enforce any edicts.

Christopher F. Thornberg, a principal at Beacon Economics who correctly forecast that the housing boom would implode, said he understood what Fannie was trying to do, and even sympathized to a degree.

It is rational economics, he said, to assume that someone who walked away from an unpaid mortgage once might do so again. It also made sense, he said, for Fannie to try to limit strategic defaults from becoming an even bigger problem. And the new program also addresses the moral hazard question, Mr. Thornberg said: If borrowers are not punished for their missteps, they might not learn their lesson and might do it again.

And yet, he noted, the banks were bailed out, and their executives walked away rich. “Why should I pay my dues when they did not?” he said. “There is no clean answer on this.”

© 2010-19 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took over a foreclosed home every 90 seconds

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took over a foreclosed home every 90 seconds

Cost of Seizing Fannie and Freddie Surges for Taxpayers

By BINYAMIN APPELBAUM Published: June 19, 2010 NyTimes

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took over a foreclosed home roughly every 90 seconds during the first three months of the year. They owned 163,828 houses at the end of March, a virtual city with more houses than Seattle. The mortgage finance companies, created by Congress to help Americans buy homes, have become two of the nation’s largest landlords.

Bill Bridwell, a real estate agent in the desert south of Phoenix, is among the thousands of agents hired nationwide by the companies to sell those foreclosures, recouping some of the money that borrowers failed to repay. In a good week, he sells 20 homes and Fannie sends another 20 listings his way.

“We’re all working for the government now,” said Mr. Bridwell on a recent sun-baked morning, steering a Hummer through subdivisions laid out like circuit boards on the desert floor.

For all the focus on the historic federal rescue of the banking industry, it is the government’s decision to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008 that is likely to cost taxpayers the most money. So far the tab stands at $145.9 billion, and it grows with every foreclosure of a three-bedroom home with a two-car garage one hour from Phoenix. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the final bill could reach $389 billion.

Fannie and Freddie increased American home ownership over the last half-century by persuading investors to provide money for mortgage loans. The sales pitch amounted to a money-back guarantee: If borrowers defaulted, the companies promised to repay the investors. DinSFLA HERE: Yea but what if there was Lender Fraud involved??? Why should any of us be on the hook for this??

Rather than actually making loans, the two companies — Fannie older and larger, Freddie created to provide competition — bought loans from banks and other originators, providing money for more lending and helping to hold down interest rates.

“Our business is the American dream of home ownership,” Fannie Mae declared in its mission statement, and in 2001 the company set a target of helping to create six million new homeowners by 2014. Here in Arizona, during a housing boom fueled by cheap land, cheap money and population growth, Fannie Mae executives trumpeted that the company would invest $15 billion to help families buy homes.

As it turns out, Fannie and Freddie increasingly were channeling money into loans that borrowers could not afford. As defaults mounted, the companies quickly ran low on money to honor their guarantees. The federal government, fearing that investors would stop providing money for new loans, placed the companies in conservatorship and took a 79.9 percent ownership stake, adding its own guarantee that investors would be repaid.

The huge and continually rising cost of that decision has spurred national debate about federal subsidies for mortgage lending. Republicans want to sever ties with Fannie and Freddie once the crisis abates. The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have insisted on postponing the argument until after the midterm elections.

In the meantime, Fannie and Freddie are editing the results of the housing boom at public expense, removing owners who cannot afford their homes, reselling the houses at much lower prices and financing mortgage loans for the new owners.

The two companies together accounted for 17 percent of real estate sales in Arizona during the first four months of the year, almost three times their share of the market during the same period last year, according to an analysis by MDA DataQuick.

Valarie Ross, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Avondale, has watched six of the nine homes visible from her lawn chair emptied by moving trucks during the last year. Four have been resold by the government. “One by one,” she said. “Just amazing.”

The population of Pinal County, where Mr. Bridwell lives and works, roughly doubled to 340,000 over the last decade. Developers built an entirely new city called Maricopa on land assembled from farmers. Buyers camped outside new developments, waiting to purchase homes. One builder laid out a 300-lot subdivision at the end of a three-mile dirt road and still managed to sell 30 of the homes.

Mr. Bridwell sold plenty of those houses during the boom, then cut workers as prices crashed. Now his firm, Golden Touch Realty, again employs as many people as at the height of the boom, all working exclusively for Fannie Mae. The payroll now includes a locksmith to secure foreclosed homes and two clerks devoted to federal paperwork.

Golden Touch gets more listings from Fannie Mae than any other firm in Pinal County. Mr. Bridwell said he was ready to jump because he remembered the last time the government ended up owning thousands of Arizona houses, after the late-1980s collapse of the savings and loan industry.

The way I see it,” said Mr. Bridwell, whose glass-top desk displays membership cards from the Republican National Committee, “is that we’re getting these homes back into private hands.”

Selling a house generally costs the government about $10,000. The outsides are weeded and the insides are scrubbed. Stolen appliances are replaced, brackish pools are refilled. And until the properties are sold, they must be maintained. Fannie asks contractors to mow lawns twice a month during the summer, and pays them $80 each time. That’s a monthly grass bill of more than $10 million.

All told, the companies spent more than $1 billion on upkeep last year.

“We may be behind many loans on the same street, so we believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to aggressively do property maintenance,” said Chris Bowden, the Freddie Mac executive in charge of foreclosure sales.

Prices have plunged. So by the time a home is resold, Fannie and Freddie on average recoup less than 60 percent of the money the borrower failed to repay, according to the companies’ financial filings. In Phoenix and other areas where prices have fallen sharply, the losses often are larger.

Foreclosures punch holes in neighborhoods, so residents, community groups and public officials are eager to see properties reoccupied. But there also is concern that investors are buying many foreclosures as rental properties, making it harder for neighborhoods to recover.

Real estate agents tend to favor investors because the sales close surely and quickly and there is the prospect of repeat business. But community advocates say that Fannie and Freddie have an obligation to sell houses to homeowners.

David Adame worked for Fannie Mae’s local office during the boom, on programs to make ownership more affordable. Now with prices down sharply, Mr. Adame sees a second chance to put people into homes they can afford.

“Yes, move inventory,” said Mr. Adame, now an executive focused on housing issues at Chicanos por la Causa, a Phoenix nonprofit group, “but if we just move inventory to investors, then what are we doing?”

Executives at both Fannie and Freddie say they have an overriding obligation to limit losses, but that they are taking steps to sell more homes to families.

Fannie Mae last summer announced that it would give people seeking homes a “first look” by not accepting offers from investors in the first 15 days that a property is on the market. It also offers to help buyers with closing costs, and prohibits buyers from reselling properties at a profit for 90 days, to discourage speculation. Fannie Mae said that 68.4 percent of buyers this year had certified that they would use the house as a primary residence.

Freddie Mac has adopted fewer programs, but it said it had sold about the same share of foreclosures to owner-occupants.

The companies also have agreed to sell foreclosed homes to nonprofits using grants from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Chicanos por la Causa, which won $137 million under the program in partnership with nonprofits in eight other states, plans to buy more than 200 homes in Phoenix in the next two years. It plans to renovate them to sell to local families.

The scale of such efforts is small. The home ownership rate in Phoenix continues to fall as foreclosures pile up and renters replace owners.

But John R. Smith, chief of Housing Our Communities, another Phoenix-area group using federal money to buy foreclosures, says he tries to focus on salvaging one property at a time.

“I tell them, ‘O.K., you want to unload 10 houses to that guy, fine,’ ” he said. “ ‘Now give me this one. And this one. And one over here.’ ”

© 2010-19 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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Fannie-Freddie Fix at $160 Billion With $1 Trillion Worst Case

Fannie-Freddie Fix at $160 Billion With $1 Trillion Worst Case

By Lorraine Woellert and John Gittelsohn

June 14 (Bloomberg) — The cost of fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that last year bought or guaranteed three-quarters of all U.S. home loans, will be at least $160 billion and could grow to as much as $1 trillion after the biggest bailout in American history.

Fannie and Freddie, now 80 percent owned by U.S. taxpayers, already have drawn $145 billion from an unlimited line of government credit granted to ensure that home buyers can get loans while the private housing-finance industry is moribund. That surpasses the amount spent on rescues of American International Group Inc., General Motors Co. or Citigroup Inc., which have begun repaying their debts.

“It is the mother of all bailouts,” said Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae, who is now a consultant to the mortgage-finance industry.

Fannie, based in Washington, and Freddie in McLean, Virginia, own or guarantee 53 percent of the nation’s $10.7 trillion in residential mortgages, according to a June 10 Federal Reserve report. Millions of bad loans issued during the housing bubble remain on their books, and delinquencies continue to rise. How deep in the hole Fannie and Freddie go depends on unemployment, interest rates and other drivers of home prices, according to the companies and economists who study them.

‘Worst-Case Scenario’

The Congressional Budget Office calculated in August 2009 that the companies would need $389 billion in federal subsidies through 2019, based on assumptions about delinquency rates of loans in their securities pools. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget estimated in February that aid could total as little as $160 billion if the economy strengthens.

If housing prices drop further, the companies may need more. Barclays Capital Inc. analysts put the price tag as high as $500 billion in a December report on mortgage-backed securities, assuming home prices decline another 20 percent and default rates triple.

Sean Egan, president of Egan-Jones Ratings Co. in Haverford, Pennsylvania, said that a 20 percent loss on the companies’ loans and guarantees, along the lines of other large market players such as Countrywide Financial Corp., now owned by Bank of America Corp., could cause even more damage.

“One trillion dollars is a reasonable worst-case scenario for the companies,” said Egan, whose firm warned customers away from municipal bond insurers in 2002 and downgraded Enron Corp. a month before its 2001 collapse.

Unfinished Business

A 20 percent decline in housing prices is possible, said David Rosenberg, chief economist for Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc. in Toronto. Rosenberg, whose forecasts are more pessimistic than those of other economists, predicts a 15 percent drop.

“Worst case is probably 25 percent,” he said.

The median price of a home in the U.S. was $173,100 in April, down 25 percent from the July 2006 peak, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Fannie and Freddie are deeply wired into the U.S. and global financial systems. Figuring out how to stanch the losses and turn them into sustainable businesses is the biggest piece of unfinished business as Congress negotiates a Wall Street overhaul that could reach President Barack Obama’s desk by July.

Neither political party wants to risk damaging the mortgage market, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and White House economic adviser under President George W. Bush.

“Republicans and Democrats love putting Americans in houses, and there’s no getting around that,” Holtz-Eakin said.

‘Safest Place’

With no solution in sight, the companies may need billions of dollars from the Treasury Department each quarter. The alternative — cutting the federal lifeline and letting the companies default on their debts — would produce global economic tremors akin to the U.S. decision to go off the gold standard in the 1930s, said Robert J. Shiller, a professor of economics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who helped create the S&P/Case-Shiller indexes of property values.

“People all over the world think, ‘Where is the safest place I could possibly put my money?’ and that’s the U.S.,” Shiller said in an interview. “We can’t let Fannie and Freddie go. We have to stand up for them.”

Congress created the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, in 1938 to expand home ownership by buying mortgages from banks and other lenders and bundling them into bonds for investors. It set up the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., Freddie Mac, in 1970 to compete with Fannie.

Lower Standards

The companies’ liabilities stem in large part from loans and mortgage-backed securities issued between 2005 and 2007. Directed by Congress to encourage lending to minorities and low- income borrowers at the same time private companies were gaining market share by pushing into subprime loans, Fannie and Freddie lowered their standards to take on high-risk mortgages.

Many of those went to borrowers with poor credit or little equity in their homes, according to company filings. By early 2008, more than $500 billion of loans guaranteed or held by Fannie and Freddie, about 10 percent of the total, were in subprime mortgages, according to Fed reports.

Fannie and Freddie also raised billions of dollars by selling their own corporate debt to investors around the world. The bonds are seen as safe because of an implicit government guarantee against default. Foreign governments, including China’s and Japan’s, hold $908 billion of such bonds, according to Fed data.

‘Debt Trap’

“Do we really want to go to the central bank of China and say, ‘Tough luck, boys’? That’s part of the problem,” said Karen Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics Inc., a Washington-based research firm.

The terms of the 2008 Treasury bailout create further complications. Fannie and Freddie are required to pay a 10 percent annual dividend on the shares owned by taxpayers. So far, they owe $14.5 billion, more than the companies reported in income in their most profitable years.

“It’s like a debt trap,” said Qumber Hassan, a mortgage strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG in New York. “The more they draw, the more they have to pay.”

Fannie and Freddie also benefited by selling $1.4 trillion in mortgage-backed securities to the Fed and the Treasury since September 2008, bonds that otherwise would have weighed on their balance sheets. While the government bought only the lowest-risk securities, it could incur additional losses.

‘Hard to Judge’

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has vowed to keep Fannie and Freddie operating.

“It’s very hard to judge what the scale of losses is,” Geithner told Congress in March.

One idea being weighed by the Obama administration involves reconstituting Fannie and Freddie into a “good bank” with performing loans and a “bad bank” to absorb the rest. That could cost taxpayers as much as $290 billion because of all the bad loans, according to a May estimate by Credit Suisse analysts.

At the end of March, borrowers were late making payments on $338.4 billion worth of Fannie and Freddie loans, up from $206.1 billion a year earlier, according to the companies’ first- quarter filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The number of loans more than three months past due has risen every quarter for more than a year, hitting 5.5 percent at Fannie as of the end of March and 4.1 percent at Freddie, according to the filings.

Surge in Delinquencies

The composition of the $5.5 trillion of loans guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie suggests that the surge in delinquencies may continue. About $1.98 trillion of the loans were made in states with the nation’s highest foreclosure rates — California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona — and $1.13 trillion were issued in 2006 and 2007, when real estate values peaked. Mortgages on which borrowers owe more than 90 percent of a property’s value total $402 billion.

Fannie and Freddie may suffer additional losses as a result of the Treasury’s effort to prevent foreclosures. Under the program, banks with mortgages owned or guaranteed by the companies must rewrite loan terms to make them easier for borrowers to pay.

The Treasury program is budgeted to cost Fannie and Freddie $20 billion. The companies have already modified about 600,000 delinquent loans and refinanced almost 300,000 more, in some cases for an amount greater than the houses are worth.

The government is using Fannie and Freddie “for a public- policy purpose that may well increase the ultimate cost of the taxpayer rescue,” said Petrou of Federal Financial Analytics. “Treasury is rolling the dice.”

Republican Phase-Out

If the plan works and foreclosures fall, that could help stabilize Fannie’s and Freddie’s balance sheets and ultimately protect taxpayers.

“Avoiding foreclosures can be a route to reducing loss severity,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, executive vice president of the Center for American Progress, a Washington research group with ties to the Obama administration.

Loans issued since 2008, when the companies raised standards for borrowers, should be profitable and help offset prior losses, Wartell said.

Republicans attempted to include a phase-out of the mortgage companies in the financial reform bill. Democratic lawmakers and the Obama administration opted for further study, and the Treasury began soliciting ideas in April.

Representative Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican and co-sponsor of the phase-out amendment, said eliminating Fannie and Freddie would force the government and the housing market to confront the issue.

“It’s somewhat impossible to predict the magnitude of their impact if they continue to be the primary source of lending,” Garrett said in an interview.

Caught in ‘Quandary’

Democrats dismissed the phase-out idea as simplistic.

“We need to have a housing-financing system in place,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said last month. “If you pull that rug out at this particular juncture, I don’t know what the particular result would be. We’re caught in this quandary.”

By delaying action, the Obama administration keeps losses off the government’s books while building a floor under housing prices during a congressional election year.

Keeping Fannie and Freddie functioning could also support an overall economic recovery. Residential real estate — the money spent on rent, mortgage payments, construction, remodeling, utilities and brokers’ fees — accounted for about 17 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

‘Already Lost’

Allowing the companies to go under and hoping that private financing will fill the gap isn’t realistic, analysts say. It would require at least two years of rising property values for private companies to return to the mortgage-securitization market, said Robert Van Order, Freddie’s former chief international economist and a professor of finance at George Washington University in Washington.

The price tag of supporting Fannie and Freddie “needs to be evaluated against the cost of not having a mortgage market,” said Phyllis Caldwell, chief of the Treasury’s Homeownership Preservation Office.

Whatever the fix, the money spent will not be recovered, said Alex Pollock, a former president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago who is now a fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.

“It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, Fannie and Freddie will cost a lot of money,” Pollock said. “The money is already lost. There’s an attempt to try to avert your eyes.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net; John Gittelsohn in New York at johngitt@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: June 13, 2010 19:00 EDT

© 2010-19 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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Tracking Loans Through a Firm That Holds Millions: MERS

Tracking Loans Through a Firm That Holds Millions: MERS

Kevin P. Casey for The New York Times: Darlene and Robert Blendheim of Seattle are struggling to keep their home after their subprime lender went out of business.

By MIKE McINTIRE NYTimes
Published: April 23, 2009

Judge Walt Logan had seen enough. As a county judge in Florida, he had 28 cases pending in which an entity called MERS wanted to foreclose on homeowners even though it had never lent them any money.

Into the Mortgage NetherworldGraphicInto the Mortgage Netherworld

MERS, a tiny data-management company, claimed the right to foreclose, but would not explain how it came to possess the mortgage notes originally issued by banks. Judge Logan summoned a MERS lawyer to the Pinellas County courthouse and insisted that that fundamental question be answered before he permitted the drastic step of seizing someone’s home.

Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times R. K. Arnold, MERS president, said the company helped reduce mortgage fraud and imposed order on the industry.

“You don’t think that’s reasonable?” the judge asked.

“I don’t,” the lawyer replied. “And in fact, not only do I think it’s not reasonable, often that’s going to be impossible.”

Judge Logan had entered the murky realm of MERS. Although the average person has never heard of it, MERS — short for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems — holds 60 million mortgages on American homes, through a legal maneuver that has saved banks more than $1 billion over the last decade but made life maddeningly difficult for some troubled homeowners.

Created by lenders seeking to save millions of dollars on paperwork and public recording fees every time a loan changes hands, MERS is a confidential computer registry for trading mortgage loans. From an office in the Washington suburbs, it played an integral, if unsung, role in the proliferation of mortgage-backed securities that fueled the housing boom. But with the collapse of the housing market, the name of MERS has been popping up on foreclosure notices and on court dockets across the country, raising many questions about the way this controversial but legal process obscures the tortuous paths of mortgage ownership.

If MERS began as a convenience, it has, in effect, become a corporate cloak: no matter how many times a mortgage is bundled, sliced up or resold, the public record often begins and ends with MERS. In the last few years, banks have initiated tens of thousands of foreclosures in the name of MERS — about 13,000 in the New York region alone since 2005 — confounding homeowners seeking relief directly from lenders and judges trying to help borrowers untangle loan ownership. What is more, the way MERS obscures loan ownership makes it difficult for communities to identify predatory lenders whose practices led to the high foreclosure rates that have blighted some neighborhoods.

In Brooklyn, an elderly homeowner pursuing fraud claims had to go to court to learn the identity of the bank holding his mortgage note, which was concealed in the MERS system. In distressed neighborhoods of Atlanta, where MERS appeared as the most frequent filer of foreclosures, advocates wanting to engage lenders “face a challenge even finding someone with whom to begin the conversation,” according to a report by NeighborWorks America, a community development group.

To a number of critics, MERS has served to cushion banks from the fallout of their reckless lending practices.

“I’m convinced that part of the scheme here is to exhaust the resources of consumers and their advocates,” said Marie McDonnell, a mortgage analyst in Orleans, Mass., who is a consultant for lawyers suing lenders. “This system removes transparency over what’s happening to these mortgage obligations and sows confusion, which can only benefit the banks.”

A recent visitor to the MERS offices in Reston, Va., found the receptionist answering a telephone call from a befuddled borrower: “I’m sorry, ma’am, we can’t help you with your loan.” MERS officials say they frequently get such calls, and they offer a phone line and Web page where homeowners can look up the actual servicer of their mortgage.

In an interview, the president of MERS, R. K. Arnold, said that his company had benefited not only banks, but also millions of borrowers who could not have obtained loans without the money-saving efficiencies it brought to the mortgage trade. He said that far from posing a hurdle for homeowners, MERS had helped reduce mortgage fraud and imposed order on a sprawling industry where, in the past, lenders might have gone out of business and left no contact information for borrowers seeking assistance.

“We’re not this big bad animal,” Mr. Arnold said. “This crisis that we’ve had in the mortgage business would have been a lot worse without MERS.”

About 3,000 financial services firms pay annual fees for access to MERS, which has 44 employees and is owned by two dozen of the nation’s largest lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. It was the brainchild of the Mortgage Bankers Association, along with Fannie MaeFreddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, the mortgage finance giants, who produced a white paper in 1993 on the need to modernize the trading of mortgages.

At the time, the secondary market was gaining momentum, and Wall Street banks and institutional investors were making millions of dollars from the creative bundling and reselling of loans. But unlike common stocks, whose ownership has traditionally been hidden, mortgage-backed securities are based on loans whose details were long available in public land records kept by county clerks, who collect fees for each filing. The “tyranny of these forms,” the white paper said, was costing the industry $164 million a year.

“Before MERS,” said John A. Courson, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, “the problem was that every time those documents or a file changed hands, you had to file a paper assignment, and that becomes terribly debilitating.”

Although several courts have raised questions over the years about the secrecy afforded mortgage owners by MERS, the legality has ultimately been upheld. The issue has surfaced again because so many homeowners facing foreclosure are dealing with MERS.

Advocates for borrowers complain that the system’s secrecy makes it impossible to seek help from the unidentified investors who own their loans. Avi Shenkar, whose company, the GMA Modification Corporation in North Miami Beach, Fla., helps homeowners renegotiate mortgages, said loan servicers frequently argued that “investor guidelines” prevented them from modifying loan terms.

“But when you ask what those guidelines are, or who the investor is so you can talk to them directly, you can’t find out,” he said.

MERS has considered making information about secondary ownership of mortgages available to borrowers, Mr. Arnold said, but he expressed doubts that it would be useful. Banks appoint a servicer to manage individual mortgages so “investors are not in the business of dealing with borrowers,” he said. “It seems like anything that bypasses the servicer is counterproductive,” he added.

When foreclosures do occur, MERS becomes responsible for initiating them as the mortgage holder of record. But because MERS occupies that role in name only, the bank actually servicing the loan deputizes its employees to act for MERS and has its lawyers file foreclosures in the name of MERS.

The potential for confusion is multiplied when the high-tech MERS system collides with the paper-driven foreclosure process. Banks using MERS to consummate mortgage trades with “electronic handshakes” must later prove their legal standing to foreclose. But without the chain of title that MERS removed from the public record, banks sometimes recreate paper assignments long after the fact or try to replace mortgage notes lost in the securitization process.

This maneuvering has been attacked by judges, who say it reflects a cavalier attitude toward legal safeguards for property owners, and exploited by borrowers hoping to delay foreclosure. Judge Logan in Florida, among the first to raise questions about the role of MERS, stopped accepting MERS foreclosures in 2005 after his colloquy with the company lawyer. MERS appealed and won two years later, although it has asked banks not to foreclose in its name in Florida because of lingering concerns.

Last February, a State Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn, Arthur M. Schack, rejected a foreclosure based on a document in which a Bank of New York executive identified herself as a vice president of MERS. Calling her “a milliner’s delight by virtue of the number of hats she wears,” Judge Schack wondered if the banker was “engaged in a subterfuge.”

In Seattle, Ms. McDonnell has raised similar questions about bankers with dual identities and sloppily prepared documents, helping to delay foreclosure on the home of Darlene and Robert Blendheim, whose subprime lender went out of business and left a confusing paper trail.

“I had never heard of MERS until this happened,” Mrs. Blendheim said. “It became an issue with us, because the bank didn’t have the paperwork to prove they owned the mortgage and basically recreated what they needed.”

The avalanche of foreclosures — three million last year, up 81 percent from 2007 — has also caused unforeseen problems for the people who run MERS, who take obvious pride in their unheralded role as a fulcrum of the American mortgage industry.

In Delaware, MERS is facing a class-action lawsuit by homeowners who contend it should be held accountable for fraudulent fees charged by banks that foreclose in MERS’s name.

Sometimes, banks have held title to foreclosed homes in the name of MERS, rather than their own. When local officials call and complain about vacant properties falling into disrepair, MERS tries to track down the lender for them, and has also created a registry to locate property managers responsible for foreclosed homes.

“But at the end of the day,” said Mr. Arnold, president of MERS, “if that lawn is not getting mowed and we cannot find the party who’s responsible for that, I have to get out there and mow that lawn.”

Posted in CitiGroup, concealment, conspiracy, fannie mae, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, forensic loan audit, forensic mortgage investigation audit, Freddie Mac, investigation, jpmorgan chase, judge arthur schack, MERS, mortgage bankers association, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, mortgage modification, note, R.K. Arnold, securitization, wells fargo0 Comments

Housing Market Update: When Will House Prices Recover?

Housing Market Update: When Will House Prices Recover?

Since they all seem to be talking out of their asses…let me be frank and speaketh Le Face! Not in 5 yrs…not in 10 years…maybe in 20 years from now!

Seeing the inventory of shadow “hidden” reo’s there is no near in sight!

Now why give any loans today? The housing market is going down, these homes will continue to head under water? Buy today…Loose Tomorrow mentality? Especially the FHA loans??

5465.0

Description: A sign advertising new homes for sale is seen on March 24 in Davie, Florida. (Getty Images)

May 27, 2010 | From theTrumpet.com
Not any time soon.

Remember when all those government economists and National Association of Realtors analysts were saying that housing prices wouldn’t recover until the first half of 2009? Then it was by 2010? Now the truth is coming out. No one knows when housing prices will recover—if ever.

According to mortgage-bond legend Lewis Ranieri, don’t expect a meaningful rebound in house prices for at least three to five years: “There is another big leg down and the question is how long does it stay.”

Don’t be quick to dismiss what Ranieri says, because he is possibly the one individual who is arguably just as responsible for America’s great housing bubble as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (who lowered interest rates to record lows to try to get us to spend our way out of a recession), the politicians (who forced banks to lend to unqualified individuals) and the investment ratings agencies (that rated subprime mortgages as triple-A safe).

Ranieri was the high-flying Salomon Brothers trader who first packaged mortgages into bundles that could be sold and traded as securities on a national and international level. He was the man who institutionalized mass mortgage investing. His innovations back in the 1980s helped reduce the cost of mortgages for millions of people. But they also paved the way for the junk subprime lending that helped fuel the housing bubble.

Now Ranieri is saying to get set for more trouble ahead. Over the next 18 months, at least 3 million more properties will join the 5 million already in some stage of distress. “It’s an immense problem” that risks “flooding the market,” he said.

The market for mortgage-backed securities has virtually dried up since 2008. With so many people falling behind on their payments, investors have not been able to rely on the steady streams of income that mortgage bonds historically produce. Plus, with house prices plummeting, investors don’t even have the protection of collateral.

With such adverse conditions, investors don’t want to touch American mortgages with a 10-foot pole.

Normally this lack of investment demand would drive up mortgage rates and weed out weaker borrowers—thus allowing the housing market to return to investable conditions.

However, due to government intervention to prop up the housing market, there has been an unforeseen side effect. America’s pool of mortgages has actually become riskier for investors.

In an effort to prop up house prices in America and thus keep the big banks solvent, the government began massively encouraging more people to invest in homes: It changed tax laws, it used taxpayer money to modify loans for people who had borrowed too much, it offered first-time home buyers credits, and then extended the buyers’ credits again once they expired.

It even used taxpayer dollars to ramp up subprime lending—the same kind of risky lending that got the banks into trouble in the first place.

It was one massive taxpayer-backed effort to increase the pool of home buyers and thus demand for houses and house prices.

But the scheme largely backfired.

The government subsidies and handouts did encourage more people to buy homes—but mostly people who couldn’t normally afford homes on their own.

Look at the numbers. About 95 percent of the money used to buy homes in America today comes from the government. And guess which government organization issues the most loans. Is it Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government mortgage giants notorious for their low lending standards? No, it is a new government agency with even lower standards.

Meet the Federal Housing Authority (fha). You can get an fha-backed loan for a house with as little as 3.5 percent down. This is the most common loan in America today. If you include the government’s $8,000 first-time buyer’s credit (that just expired), the government was actually paying people to borrow taxpayer dollars to purchase homes.

“This is a market purely on life support, sustained by the federal government,” admits fha president David Stevens. “Having fha do this much volume is a sign of a very sick system.”

The fha backed more loans during the first quarter of this year than the $6 trillion Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants did! Those were your dollars being given to subprime borrowers.

If you were an investor, would you want to lend money to someone who could not save up a down payment? Would you lend to a family that required two incomes to afford the loan and still couldn’t save up a down payment?

Thus, the government is stuck with all the mortgages. It can’t stop giving money for loans, or the market will collapse, the economy will head down again and politicians will look incompetent. Yet at the same time, how long can the government afford to provide money for 95 percent of all home-buying activity in the country?

With America’s ballooning budget deficits, the days of government handouts may soon come to an end. When they do, don’t be surprised if house prices fall a whole lot further.

So when will a recovery come? No one knows for sure, but even Lewis Ranieri will likely be proved an optimist.

For the real reason America’s housing market exploded, and how to fix it, read “The Cause of the Crisis People Won’t Face.” •

Posted in concealment, conspiracy, corruption, fannie mae, federal reserve board, foreclosure fraud, Freddie Mac0 Comments

Q & A: What’s Next for Fannie and Freddie? WSJ

Q & A: What’s Next for Fannie and Freddie? WSJ

MAY 24, 2010, 9:53 AM ET

By Nick Timiraos

It turns out that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, already becoming the most expensive legacy for taxpayers from the financial crisis, aren’t just too big too fail. As my column in Monday’s WSJ explains, they’re also proving too tough to reform.

Here’s a closer look at five common questions about what’s happening with—and what’s next for—Fannie and Freddie:

1. Why doesn’t the financial-overhaul bill address Fannie and Freddie?

The Obama administration says it’s too soon to take action to address the future of the housing-finance giants because markets are still fragile, and others have said the bill is already too complex without Fannie and Freddie in the mix.

Revamping the housing-finance giants, which own or guarantee around half of the nation’s $10.3 trillion in home mortgages, was never going to be easy. But the fact that, together with the Federal Housing Administration, the companies guaranteed 96.5% of all new mortgages last quarter has made the challenge only greater.

During the debate on financial-overhaul legislation, Republicans proposed measures that would have wound down the companies and limited the amount of further government aid. But the amendments didn’t specify what would take the place of Fannie and Freddie.

Both parties are “ignoring the issue,” says Lawrence White, an economics professor at New York University. Yes, markets may be too fragile for action now, but he says a plan now would give markets time to prepare for the future.

2. Why are Fannie and Freddie still losing money?

The companies have taken $145 billion in handouts, including $19 billion this quarter, from the U.S. Treasury so far, and that number could rise as foreclosures mount. Each quarter, as more mortgages go delinquent, Fannie and Freddie have to set aside more cash in reserve to cover losses if those loans end up defaulting and the homes they’re secured by go through foreclosure.

Nearly all of those defaults are coming from loans that the companies made during and immediately after the housing boom. Loans today have significantly tighter lending standards and should be profitable.

While losses could continue for several quarters, there are signs that delinquencies may have peaked during the first quarter. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each said that the number of its loans that were seriously delinquent fell in March, from February.

3. Why is the government still putting money into the companies?

Each quarter, the government injects new money into Fannie and Freddie to keep the companies afloat. That allows the firms to meet their obligations to investors, which keeps the mortgage market moving. If the government decided to stop keeping the firms afloat, that could send borrowing costs up sharply for future homeowners and could create new shocks for the housing market.

In February 2009, the Obama administration said it would double to $200 billion the amount of aid it was willing to put into each of the two firms. Then in December, it said it would waive those limits, and allow for unlimited sums over the next three years. The companies are now akin to government housing banks, with an independent regulator, but one that ultimately must answer to the Treasury Department, which controls the purse strings.

The current arrangement has raised concerns that the companies could continue to make business decisions that might lead to higher losses and that they wouldn’t be making if they were still being run for private shareholders. “Unregulated pots of money—that was a cause of their demise, and now we’ve taken that monster and turned it into a super-monster” with little independent oversight, says David Felt, a former senior lawyer at the companies’ federal regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

What would the mortgage market look like today without government support?

Consider the market for “jumbo” loans, or those too large for government backing. Rates on jumbos are around 0.6 percentage points higher than conforming loans. That’s nearly double the historical spread, but an improvement over the peak 1.8 percentage point spread during the financial crisis.

Lending standards are also much tighter for loans without government backing, and 30-year fixed rate loans are much less common. Mike Farrell, chief executive of Annaly Capital Management, estimates that mortgage rates today would be two to three percentage points higher without government guarantees.

What will ultimately happen to Fannie and Freddie?

Congress has to decide what it wants the housing-finance system of the future to do. “Everyone acknowledges that the model is broken, that the model was flawed, yet we don’t know how to run a mortgage market without them and we have nothing with which to replace the broken system,” says Howard Glaser, a Clinton administration housing official and housing-industry consultant.

Still, a consensus is growing between some academics and policymakers that the government will continue to play some role at least in backstopping mortgages. Recent testimony from top administration officials over some general insight into what the administration wants the future system to do.

What will ultimately happen to Fannie and Freddie?

Congress has to decide what it wants the housing-finance system of the future to do. “Everyone acknowledges that the model is broken, that the model was flawed, yet we don’t know how to run a mortgage market without them and we have nothing with which to replace the broken system,” says Howard Glaser, a Clinton administration housing official and housing-industry consultant.

Still, a consensus is growing between some academics and policymakers that the government will continue to play some role at least in backstopping mortgages. Recent testimony from top administration officials over some general insight into what the administration wants the future system to do.

There have been other clues: The Obama administration has made clear its view that the failure of Fannie and Freddie shouldn’t be pinned on government affordable-housing mandates, which suggests that any future housing-finance entities would continue to serve a role supporting that function. And an administration report on the foreclosure crisis said that better regulation of the entire mortgage market, and not just any government-related entities, would be a “high priority” for the future.

Readers, what do you think the government should do with the firms?

Posted in fannie mae, foreclosure, Freddie Mac, mortgage modification0 Comments

Freddie and Fannie won't pay down your mortgage: CNN

Freddie and Fannie won't pay down your mortgage: CNN

This is why you need a FORENSIC AUDIT…Find the missing pieces of possible violations! DEMAND IT!

By Tami Luhby, senior writer May 14, 2010: 3:58 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Pressure is mounting on loan servicers and investors to reduce troubled homeowners’ loan balances…but the two largest owners of mortgages aren’t getting the message.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are controlled by the federal government, do not lower the principal on the loans they back, instead opting for interest rate reductions and term extensions when modifying loans.

But their stance is out of synch with the Obama administration, which is seeking to expand the use of principal writedowns. In late March, it announced servicers will be required to consider lowering balances in loan modifications.

And just who would tell Fannie (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie (FRE, Fortune 500) to start allowing principal reductions? The Obama administration.

Asked whether they will implement balance reductions, the companies and their regulator declined to comment. The Treasury Department also declined to comment.

What’s holding them back is the companies’ mandate to conserve their assets and limit their need for taxpayer-funded cash infusions, experts said. If Fannie and Freddie lower homeowners’ loan balances, they are locking in losses because they have to write down the value of those mortgages. Essentially, that means using tax dollars to pay people’s mortgages.

The housing crisis has already wreaked havoc on the pair’s balance sheets. Between them, they have received $127 billion — and recently requested another $19 billion — from the Treasury Department since they were placed into conservatorship in September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

Housing experts, however, say it’s time for Fannie and Freddie to start reducing principal. Treasury and the companies have already set aside $75 billion for foreclosure prevention, which can be spent on interest-rate reductions or principal write downs.

“Treasury has to bite the bullet and get Fannie and Freddie to participate,” said Alan White, a law professor at Valparaiso University. “It’s all Treasury money one way or the other.”

Though servicers are loathe to lower loan balances, a growing chorus of experts and advocates say it’s the best way to stem the foreclosure crisis. Homeowners are more likely to walk away if they owe far more than the home is worth, regardless of whether the monthly payment is affordable. Nearly one in four borrowers in the U.S. are currently underwater.

“Principal reduction in the long run will lower the risk of redefault,” said Vishwanath Tirupattur, a Morgan Stanley managing director and co-author of the firm’s monthly report on the U.S. housing market. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of loans backed by Fannie and Freddie are falling into default. Their delinquency rates are rising even faster than those of subprime mortgages as the weak economy takes its toll on more credit-worthy homeowners. Fannie’s default rate jumped to 5.47% at the end of March, up from 3.15% a year earlier, while Freddie’s rose to 4.13%, up from 2.41%.

On top of that, the redefault rates on their modified loans are far worse than on those held by banks, according to federal regulators.

Some 59.5% of Fannie’s loans and 57.3% of Freddie’s loans were in default a year after modification, compared to 40% of bank-portfolio mortgages, according to a joint report from the Office of Thrift Supervision and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This is part because banks are reducing the principal on their own loans, experts said.

So, advocates argue, lowering loan balances now can actually save the companies — and taxpayers — money later.

“It can be a financial benefit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the taxpayer,” said Edward Pinto, who was chief credit officer for Fannie in the late 1980s.

What might force the companies’ hand is another Obama administration foreclosure prevention plan called the Hardest Hit Fund, which has charged 10 states to come up with innovative ways to help the unemployed and underwater.

Four states have proposed using their share of the $2.1 billion fund to pay off up to $50,000 of underwater homeowners’ balances, but only if loan servicers and investors — including Fannie and Freddie — agree to match the writedowns. State officials are currently in negotiations with the pair.

“We remain optimistic that we can get a commitment from Fannie, Freddie and the banks to contribute to this strategy,” said David Westcott, director of homeownership programs for the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which is spearheading the state’s proposal.

 

Posted in fannie mae, forensic loan audit, forensic mortgage investigation audit, Freddie Mac, mortgage modification0 Comments

Freddie and Fannie ran up the "Hill" each with a book and a story…

Freddie and Fannie ran up the "Hill" each with a book and a story…

They helped give away TRILLIONS!

 

Something old … something new … a bit of a rehash here but also some good review. Note page 24. PROCESS THE FORECLOSURE IN YOUR INSTITUTIONS NAME!

They are instructing these servicers to commit fraud!

[scribd id=31254338 key=key-25ma6k1h04togprd1yb9 mode=slideshow]

 And Fannie Mae is doing it too. According to this, they instruct the servicers to just do bogus assignments depending on what they can get away with. None of the parties own the loans, not even Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae!

[scribd id=31254687 key=key-2d3sasi2ma1f7wea81lf mode=list]

WAIT FOR THE NEXT WAVE…FHA SUBPRIME DEFAULTS!

Posted in concealment, corruption, fannie mae, foreclosure fraud, Freddie Mac0 Comments

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